Rising local director’s

Juan Frausto finally has his foot in the Hollywood door. His third film, “Once Upon a Time in the Hood,” plays in the 20th Annual Chicago Latino International Film Festival. The picture is due out on video from Maverick Entertainment and Breakaway Films this July, and is slated for a run on HBO Latino early next year.

“This movie will open doors for me, and for Latinos,” Frausto said. “It shows the we can do really good movies with low budgets and still get distribution. We’re just now capturing the market. On the strength of ‘Once Upon a Time in the Hood,’ I’ve been getting offers from Hollywood to do Latin action movies.”

A native of Mexico, Frausto based the gang actioner on his experience growing up on Chicago’s 26th Street. “I lost many friends on the street,” Frausto said. “Each one had a story to tell and I carry their stories with me.”

Frausto wrote the script with producing partner David J. Miller. Miller and Frausto raised the under-$200,000 budget from private investors through Miller’s Mindlight Films and Frausto’s Orta-Mex Films. Gennadi Balitski shot on Super 16mm for four weeks in fall 2002. “Hood” stars Eric Aviles, Michael Cortez and Eddie Martinez.

The director calls his 1993 feature debut, the family drama “Change,” the first Chicago Latino feature film. “Change” premiered at the 10th Chicago Latino Film Festival in 1994. Frausto’s second movie, “Drive By,” a gang story like “Hood,” grossed $2.7 million for Artisan Entertainment in its 2002 video release and is still in rotation on HBO Latino.

The filmmaker just returned from Florida, where he directed his fourth film, the HD immigration drama “La Migra,” for Breakaway. “This was the first film where I worked with professional actors from Mexico that I grew up watching on TV,” Frausto said. “It was a beautiful experience.” He’s cutting “La Migra” on his home edit suite and it’s due out on video by spring 2005 on Lion’s Gate through Breakaway/Maverick.

“I don’t want to just be known as an urban gang film director from Chicago,” Frausto said. “It’s hard to do personal movies when you’re starting out, you have to give your films some commercial value so Hollywood can say ‘this will sell.’ Once you’re in the door, you have the power to do what you want.”

“Once Upon A Time in the Hood” plays April 24 at 8 p.m. and April 27 at 9 p.m. at the Biograph Theatre, 2433 N. Lincoln. The Latino Film Festival runs April 16-28 at the Biograph, 3 Penny Cinema, Facets Multi-Media, and other venues. See www.latinoculturalcenter.org/filmfest.

Frausto’s Orta-Mex Films is at 3939 W. 56th St. Call 773/835-0390 or e-mail ortamexfilms@hotmail.com.

? by Ed M. Koziarski, edk@homesickblues.com.